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The 2017 Legislative Session is Over: What You Need to Know

The 2017 Utah legislative session has come to an end. Many of Utah’s potentially new laws passed by the Utah legislature made national news. While some of the controversial bills that made headlines were not signed into law by Governor Herbert, some controversial bills were. That being said, the legislature passed, and Governor Herbert signed, bills that will undoubtedly benefit Utah. While there are many bills that impact our clients, below are a few that we believe are quite important to consider.

.05 BAC

House Bill 155 is a first in the nation. In 2019, Utah’s Blood-Alcohol Content (“BAC”) will move from .08 to .05 for drunk driving. HB 155 has made it to the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Men’s Journal, and other national publications. There are other components of the law, including a provision of “Novice Learner Driver” that may apply to immigrants and would restrict anyone that has not previously held a valid driver’s license in the United States from consuming any alcohol whatsoever before operating a vehicle (a “not a drop” driver, in legal parlance).

Governor Herbert signed HB 155 on March 23, 2017.

What you need to know: First, this bill takes effect on December 30, 2018. Keep that in mind when we all ring in the New Year for 2019. Second, the bill affects other aspects of DUI law beyond the BAC. We are studying the bill. While we have time before the bill will take effect, we want to make sure we are ready for the changes. Third, we believe that no one should drink and drive. While we believe there will be many issues that arise under this new bill, we encourage anyone to be safe while enjoying their favorite beverages. If you are charged with a DUI or any traffic-related offense, contact Partner Phil Wormdahl.

Electronic Communication Harassment

Senate Bill 118 appears to try to combat online harassment. As we’ve seen in recent years, online harassment and abuses appear to be on the rise. So SB 118 makes it illegal for someone, “with intent to intimidate, abuse, threaten, harass, frighten, or disrupt the electronic communications of another,” to “electronically publish[], post[], or otherwise disclose[] personal identifying information of another person, in a public online site or forum, without the person’s permission.” The definition of “personal identifying information” is broad, including mother’s maiden name and telephone number.

Professor Eugene Volokh, of UCLA law school and authority on free speech law, has a wonderful analysis of SB 118. Again, there appears to be a good intent with this law. Online harassment is an issue. But, as often happens, good intentions can lead to bad outcomes. Professor Volokh’s analysis shines a light on some of those issues. Indeed, President Trump released the cell phone number of then-presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham during the last presidential campaign during a stump speech. SB 118 may not apply, but if President Trump knew that the video was being telecasted on other online forums, and President Trump released the number while in Utah, such conduct would appear to violate SB 118.

The bill was sent to Governor Herbert on March 16, 2017. As of this posting, the Governor appears to not have signed the bill. Under the Utah constitution, if Governor Herbert does not sign the bill, it will become law. https://le.utah.gov/xcode/ArticleVII/Article_VII,_Section_8.html

What you need to know: SB 118 appears quite broad. While no one should engage in any harassment online, review the list of what constitutes “personal identifying information” before lashing out against anyone online. That being said, the list appears to only be illustrative as “personal identifying information” states that it “may include” the examples listed, suggesting other information may apply. We have serious concerns about the criminalization of free speech. Indeed, before anyone is ever charged under SB 118, the bill could have a chilling effect on crucial speech, including political speech. If you are charged with a violation of this section, contact partners Robert B. Cummings and Phil Wormdahl.

The “Zion Curtain”

The legislature passed House Bill 442, which addresses the so-called “Zion Curtain” applicable to the sale of alcohol in restaurants and related establishments where minors are also allowed to visit and dine. Prior law required that restaurants have a wall erected separating out alcoholic drink preparation from the view of minors. The new law would allow restaurants and related establishments to remove the “Zion Curtain” so long as there is a 10-foot buffer between where alcoholic drinks are prepared and where minors are seated. Anyone within the buffer zone would be subject to age verification. Moreover, while prior law “grandfathered” in some establishments thereby not requiring those establishments to have a “Zion Curtain,” the new law removes any grandfather protection.

As of this posting, Governor Herbert has not signed the bill. Like SB 118, if he does not sign the bill, then the bill will become law.

What you need to know: Many establishments are concerned with the new law, especially smaller venues that cannot comply with the 10-foot buffer due simply to the size of their building. Additionally, establishments that serve alcohol and also cater to families with minors will need to be sure that proper age verification is occurring in the buffer zone. If you have questions as to this law, or DABC regulations in general, please contact Partner Robert B. Cummings.


The legislature passed House Bill 161, which targets panhandling, although not expressly. Utah enacted a similar law in 2010 with similar objectives. That law, however, was deemed unconstitutional by Judge Stewart of the Utah federal district court.

Governor Herbert signed HB 161 on March 17, 2017.
What you need to know: Panhandling is speech protected by the First Amendment. And roadway medians are what are known as “traditional public forums” where speech occurs. Laws that target speech under these circumstances pose serious constitutional problems.

While many believe panhandling is an eye-sore and my pose safety issues for the person seeking money, such laws have serious risks of impeding upon other constitutionally protected speech. For example, recently in Maine, a municipality passed a law seeking to prevent any panhandling on a roadway “median.” The plaintiffs in that case were engaging in political protest and speech when they were charged. Interestingly, the plaintiffs showed that even grassy medians spanning 30 feet were covered by the law. In those instances, someone standing on the grassy median protesting would not pose a risk to themselves or drivers.

If you are concerned with the breadth of this law, or have been cited under this law, contact Partner Robert B. Cummings. Mr. Cummings has handled civil rights cases for a myriad of clients, and is versed in First Amendment law as well.

Domestic Violence – Weapons Restrictions

The legislature passed House Bill 206, which prohibits anyone convicted of domestic violence or who had a protective order issued against them from possessing or carrying guns.

Governor Herbert signed this bill on March 23, 2017.

What you need to know: First, it appears that Second Amendment advocates supported the bill, brought by Representative Brian King of Salt Lake City. Second, weapons restrictions can be a big issue in divorce cases. And, many divorces involve the filing of protective orders at the outset or during the proceedings. While stipulating to a protective order can be a beneficial strategic move, it can have serious consequences for gun owners. Knowing those consequences beforehand is crucial as to avoid facing the unfortunate circumstances of owning guns all the while having a protective order in place. Third, if you have a protective order against you and own guns, there may be some challenges to the prohibition on gun ownership. All of these issues are nuanced and difficult. If you are facing an issue of gun ownership involving a divorce, contact Partner Danielle Hawkes.

Law Enforcement Body Camera Footage

The legislature passed House Bill 381, which provides ways for citizens to seek body-cam footage for police officers. As the bill describes, it provides for release of recordings made by a body camera that is worn by a law enforcement officer via Utah’s Governmental Records Access and Management Act, . The law also requires body-cam footage to be retained in accordance with applicable federal, state, and local laws.

Governor Herbert signed this bill on March 23, 2017.
What you need to know: If you are involved in a crime or believe your civil rights have been violated, you need to immediately act to seek records from the government. Importantly, certain records can be deleted pursuant to government policies and procedures. So time is of the essence. Body-cam footage can be imperative in mounting a defense to criminal charges, and can be crucial to vindicating your civil rights if they have been violated. If you believe that there is body-cam footage available related to either situation, and you would like an attorney to review or assist you with your case, contact Partners Robert B. Cummins and Phil Wormdahl.

About the Firm: The Salt Lake Lawyers is a boutique litigation and trial law firm in the heart of Salt Lake City, located in the historic Newhouse Building. The firm brings a wealth of knowledge to the table in a vast array of subject matters as to provide our clients with cross-discipline analysis of cases if necessary. The primary areas of practice for the firm are family law (including divorces, alimony, child support, move-away petitions, modifications, and other areas), criminal defense, civil rights, business litigation and consulting, contract disputes, personal injury (including car wrecks, medical malpractice, and other areas), Government Records Request and Management Act issues, police excessive force and abuse, Freedom of Information Act issues, and other areas of the law. If you have you are facing a legal issue, contact the firm at (801) 590-7555. If we cannot help you, we have a large referral network that most likely involves an attorney that can assist you.

The information provided herein is for educational and information purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. These commentaries are considered advertising under applicable state laws. CW Hawkes, PLLC d/b/a The Salt Lake Lawyers is located in the historic Newhouse Building in downtown Salt Lake City, at 10 Exchange Place, Ste. 622, Salt Lake City, UT 84111.

[1] The full text of the bill can be found at http://le.utah.gov/~2017/bills/static/HB0155.html.

[2] See, e.g., http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-utah-alcohol-limit-20161231-story.html; http://www.mensjournal.com/food-drink/articles/utah-is-about-to-lower-its-legal-blood-alcohol-limit-to-05-w471572; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/03/09/utahs-drunken-driving-law-is-about-to-become-the-countrys-strictest/?utm_term=.c581f4579f80.

[3] The full text of the bill can be found at http://le.utah.gov/~2017/bills/static/SB0118.html.

[4] See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2017/03/13/utah-poised-to-outlaw-mentioning-peoples-names-online-with-intent-to-abuse-or-harass/?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_term=.4388f20a675b.

[5] See, e.g., http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/21/politics/donald-trump-lindsey-graham-cell-phone/.

[6] The full text of the bill can be found at http://le.utah.gov/~2017/bills/static/HB0442.html.

[7] See, e.g., http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865674370/Utah-lawmakers-unveil-alcohol-law-reform-bill.html.

[8] The full text of the bill can be found at http://le.utah.gov/~2017/bills/static/HB0161.html.

[9] See http://archive.sltrib.com/story.php?ref=/sltrib/news/53726306-78/panhandling-barnard-state-money.html.csp

[10] https://le.utah.gov/~2017/bills/static/HB0161.html.

[11] See, e.g., Norton v. City of Springfield, 806 F.3d 411 (7th Cir. 2015).

[12] See, e.g., Perry Edu. Ass’n v. Perry Local Educators’ Ass’n, 460 U.S. 37, 45 (1983).

[13] See Cutting, et al. v. City of Portland, Case No. 2:13-cv-00359 (D. Maine).

[14] The full text of the bill can be found at http://le.utah.gov/~2017/bills/static/HB0206.html.

[15] http://le.utah.gov/~2017/bills/static/HB0206.html.

[16] See http://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2017/03/12/tds-legislature-wraps-new-laws-on-crime-punishment-penalties-and-protections/#.WMbNBoWcGUk

[17] The full text of the bill can be found at http://le.utah.gov/~2017/bills/static/HB0381.html.

[18] http://le.utah.gov/~2017/bills/static/HB0381.html.


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